Obliterating the Status Quo: Grace Hopper, a woman without limits.

Sydney Smith
Mar 7, 2019 · 3 min read

TLDR: I am an intern at Atomic Robot, and I am writing about a woman that inspires me, Grace Hopper. This woman drastically changed history both in the tech industry and the world. As a woman in the tech world, I look to her for guidance and courage for what I can do. I ask other women in tech to join us here at Atomic Robot to help us positively impact history in our own way.

Expressing herself meant shattering stereotypes

Grace Murray Hopper was born in 1906 as a curious child who grew up questioning the world around her. At the age of seven, she was known to have dismantled seven alarm clocks just to see how their inner mechanisms worked. In high school, she had a particular proclivity for geometry and mathematics and ended up pursuing them at Vassar, where she attended college. After her time there, Grace continued on to get her master’s degree and doctorate at Yale University.

At the end of her education, Grace decided to become a teacher at Vassar and worked her way up through the ranks to associate professor. However, a life of teaching did not suit Grace for long and soon she went off to pursue other goals. She tried to enlist in the navy during the early onset of WW2 but was rejected. Instead, she joined the U.S. Navy Reserve, where her passion and determination continued on.

Grace Hopper’s computing career began in 1944 when she worked on the Harvard Mark I Team on their programming staff. In 1949, Hopper was a senior mathematician at the Eckley-Mauchly Computer Corporation and joined the team developing the UNIVAC. The UNIVAC was the first known large-scale electronic computer in the 1950s. While working on this computer, Hopper had the idea to implement a new programming language that would use entirely English words. After three years of being told no, Hopper finally started to make headway on her groundbreaking work with COBOL. COBOL stands for Common Business-Oriented Language and was a computer language for data processors that used English as a means to direct a computer’s actions instead of using just code. COBOL went on to become the most ubiquitous business language to date and is still a major language used today in data processing.

In the later years of her life, Grace continued to work for the Navy and retired at the age of 60 with the title of commander. However, within a year of her retirement, she was called back to active duty and was promoted to captain. Then after retiring for a second time, she was called back again to serve and was only permitted to work by special order from Congress. Finally, following a career that spanned more than 42 years, Hopper officially retired under the title of admiral in 1986; she was one of a few women in history to receive such a distinguished honor.

The word ‘no’ wasn’t in her vocabulary

Grace Hopper is an inspiration to me because she was resilient and never took no for an answer. In a world that was dominated by men, when she was told no, she just worked harder to get where she thought she should be. The rejection from the Navy did not stop her from joining up. The rejection of her ideas did not stop her from working and thinking of a way to prove they could work. She herself, rejected retirement (twice) to come back and work for the Navy because she thought she was needed. She did everything she possibly could to contribute and push the boundaries of what could be possible.

She kicked ass, so why can’t you?

I am no comparison to this woman, but I look to her as a guide. Working in the tech industry as a woman can be seen as intimidating, but it is not impossible. If anything, it has the most potential for women to come in and shake things up a bit. There is always a need for a woman to change the status quo. So, I look to the female engineers, developers, designers, IT specialists, or whatever title you prefer, and ask, what will you do that will change the course of history?

Atomic Robot

Digital agency specializing in strategy, design and…

Sydney Smith

Written by

Atomic Robot

Digital agency specializing in strategy, design and development for iOS & Android.

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